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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Well. I had high hopes for this book. Hmmmm. It got great reviews but for me it just fell short of spectacular and I was left going “meh”.

    Touted as the next “Gone Girl” (big shoes) and “destined for the big screen” (maybe better as a movie?) I just couldn’t find the love for this book.

    I figured out the plot twist pretty early on, and although there were some surprising turns, there were also some gaping holes.

    We are introduced to a psychotherapist, a famous artist, and a famous photographer. Difficult family backgrounds and childhoods, insecurities and infidelity will play a big role in the development of these characters and how their lives and deaths come together.

    Who loves who? Who is the real villain? Who is really the crazy one? And in the end will we be satisfied with the wrapping up of this “thriller”? Unfortunately, I wasn’t. Movie coming! “Meh”.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

    Read last week’s review of The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates.

    My Current Read – The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

    Africa Travel  --  Everything Else Fabulous

    That’s a Wrap Mauritius

    Long term stay on Mauritius

    Location: Mauritius Island, Indian Ocean, Africa

    The Great Mauritius Experiment comes to an end, a long term stay on Mauritius. That’s a wrap Mauritius.

    Six weeks staying in one place. In one Airbnb. On one island. The longest we have stayed anywhere. Here is what we learned;

    Me: I didn’t feel island fever -the malady of feeling trapped – but I did feel a loss of purpose. I’m not sure how to explain it but six weeks of doing a lot of nothing was too much for me. Some things about a long term stay on Mauritius I loved; I loved unpacking and sleeping in the same bed and feeling at home…and yet…

    North Beach Mauritius

    When I am at home (in the USA I mean), for three or more months during each year I have tasks. Things that need to be accomplished. And although we might often complain about these things, feeling that sense of accomplishment is a good feeling for me.

    While on Mauritius for six weeks I set goals and created tasks to keep myself feeling accomplished. Even if it was laundry, meal planning, writing the blog, hiking, running or researching our next destinations. This provides me some sense of purpose.

    Sunset Flic en Flac Mauritius

    Don’t get me wrong…I had definite enjoyable days of doing nothing. Even though I can’t spend hours and hours in the sun like I used to, the six weeks here included a lot of relaxing, reading and quiet time. But for me, it was too long.

    My husband: He is much less in need of a sense of purpose. In fact, his life goal is no tasks. I’m not saying he is lazy. Far from it. But he prefers a life without a lot of deadlines or pressure. He was and is the driving force behind us moving forward with a travel lifestyle (although most people believe it was me) and continues to enjoy this quiet life without drama that is inevitable back in the USA.

    Sunrise Flic en Flac Mauritius

    You might also be surprised to learn that it is he who loves the heat. He can spend the entire day reading on a lounge chair in the sun. So a long term stay on Mauritius fit him perfectly.

    Me: Moving forward in our planning I think I would want to stay three or maybe four weeks in a place but not longer. We stayed three weeks in Kenya and it was perfect. We stayed three weeks in Antiparos Greece and it was incredible. Much longer I just get ants in my pants. That said, once we leave here we are on a rollercoaster of movement for more than a month (8 countries) and I know when we stop to take a two-week breather in Cyprus we will be ready, tired and irritable. Finding a balance between these two kinds of travel is my goal.

    Gris Gris Beach South Mauritius

    My husband: He would prefer staying in one place for even longer than six weeks. Schlepping the bags is a pain. Driving is a pain. Changing lodging is a pain. Airports and airplanes are a pain. But, he doesn’t want to be back in the USA for extended periods either. The fact we are going to spend the Christmas holidays in the USA in 2020 is all my doing…he would rather not. He doesn’t like the weather, he doesn’t like the chores associated with the holidays (or the house), he doesn’t like the drama and he definitely doesn’t like how much it costs.

    And so we plunge ahead. We have no plans to stop this travel life. It’s been good for our marriage. It’s been good for our health (physical and mental). It’s been good for our finances. We just continue to refine it as we go along…it’s a constant learning process.

    Ile aux Aigrettes Mauritius

    So where to next? We depart Mauritius February 15th and begin country hopping through six African countries. Two quick days in Johannesburg, six days in the Victoria Falls triangle (Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana) five days in Uganda (Gorilla tour), seven days in Rwanda.

    A rough picture of the next five weeks.

    In early March we say farewell for now to the African continent after two and a half months and head to Israel for 16 days (but in 6 different lodgings) before taking a breather in Cyprus in the end of March. In Cyprus we spend the majority of our time in one Airbnb so it should be relaxing and we will be ready.

    I won’t bore you with the details from there, but I will say there is a lot of countries to come as we move north into Europe as spring and summer arrive, culminating in France for a late June wedding and heading back to the USA June 30th.

    And I’m already planning 2021, using all the knowledge we have acquired in our travels so far. What a fabulous life indeed.

    That’s a wrap Mauritius. Thanks for following along. Read last week’s blog about the wonderful foods on this island.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Go read this book.

    Gates, co-founder of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a talented writer and her eloquently told stories of people she has met through her work around the globe is an inspiring read.

    As a world traveler myself, I have witnessed stark poverty, extreme sexism, lack of education and powerful caste systems. I look upon these things and feel helpless at what I can do.

    Gates looks upon them and develops data and brings the issues to our attention, in her determined and candid narrative.

    Through the inspiring stories she tells, including many personal stories of her own background and marriage, the overall message is clear – if you want to lift up a society you must start by supporting and lifting the women and girls.

    Go read this book.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates. Read last week’s review of Girl Woman Other.

    My current read – Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.

    Africa Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Exploring the Flavors of Mauritius

    A Melting Pot of Cuisines

    Location: Mauritius Island, Indian Ocean

    Culture Clash

    The flavors of Mauritius come from cuisines far and wide. The Island of Mauritius was uninhabited by humans until the arrival of Arabs in the 12th century. Then the Portuguese and Dutch dropped by and eventually the French and British colonized the island. The Dutch used the island as a stopover port between Madagascar and India and later for harvesting the ebony tree. Slaves were brought from Madagascar to assist in that pursuit.

    Sugarcane occupies 36% of the islands total area

    The French brought more slaves from the African continent in the 1700’s. Those slaves brought with them much of the African cultural foods and spices attributed to the flavors of Mauritius on the island today. French is still the main language of the island.

    Tea for every ailment

    The British claimed the island in 1810 and slavery was abolished in 1835. To maintain the growing sugar cane industry the British secured indentured servants from China and Malaysia and eventually a large number from India. Much of the island today feels more Indian than African and Hinduism is the largest religion.

    Salt from the island

    Today sugarcane remains the top crop of the island. Tea was once a major crop, but has declined over the years, but still is grown. Salt flats also once prolific have dwindled. Most grains are imported and many vegetables come from South Africa.

    Tea tasting and Tea plantation tours are popular activity for visitors

    African Influence

    Today exploring the cultural foods of Mauritius is a colorful collection of the history of slavery, indenture and colonialism. Creole cuisine traces its history directly to those brought from the African nations to work the sugar cane.

    Fish Curry made in our cooking class

    While visiting Mauritius we enjoyed a wide variety of Creole foods, both traditional and Nuevo. Creole is a common cuisine enjoyed on the island and we ate it in several locations as well as took an intensive Creole Cooking Class from a local chef (Diary of a Foodie Lover) who helped us explore the flavors of Mauritius. In our class we learned to make a fish curry, octopus salad, and my favorite, the flat bread known as farata.

    Making farata from scratch with Chef Didier

    Other Creole items we have enjoyed include rougaille – a spicy tomato based stew with chicken or fish – as well as Gaiteau another spicy fried ball made from lentils or chickpeas that you eat almost like popcorn, and hearts of palm salad – one of the most popular dishes on the island. The key to Creole cooking is the spices, very reminiscent of Africa. Many families and chefs create their own secret mixture, with the most popular additions being turmeric, coriander, curry, garlic, ginger, mustard seed, star anise, cloves, cardamom and thyme.

    Piment Crazer

    A spicy condiment called piment crazer is served along side bread in most restaurants. Watch out! Holy cow it is spicy. Made with chilies garlic and lemon it will make your eyes water!

    Smoked marlin salad with hearts of palm

    Prawns and fish are popular, of course, since this is an island. Marlin, not normally something you see on a menu, is favored smoked. You can find smoked marlin salads and sandwiches. Chicken is prolific. Although roti is traditionally an Indian bread, the use of roti as a wrapper for curry in the Creole style is common. Roti stands are abundant along the street and often have a very long line. It’s eaten for all three daily meals.

    Tandori Chicken with fried yams

    If you come to Mauritius we recommend a cooking class with Chef Didier and Mauritian Creole dinner at Creole Shack (casual) and Le Chamarel (fancy). Want to try fish curry at home? Here is a recipe.

    Asian Influence

    The term “coolie” was used in reference to those indentured servants who came from Asian countries, and although smaller in number their impact on the cuisine is still evident. The Asian immigrants are responsible for making rice a major part of every meal in Mauritius even though rice is not grown on the island.

    While visiting we had Chinois food several times. Similar to Chinese and Malaysian dishes we have eaten around the world, except the rice is Basmati. Every rice dish we were served while on the island was Basmati. No Chinese sticky rice like what we are used to. Basmati is a key ingredient in the flavors of Mauritius.

    Street vendor serving boulettes

    As in all Asian cuisines, vegetables, rice and noodles play a big role, with protein more of a garnish. On our street food walking tour with Taste Buddies in the capital city of Port Louis we loved the boulettes, a French word for a Chinese dumpling served throughout the island by street vendors.

    Boulettes in broth

    BBQ pork is also a popular dish – glazed with a cherry-honey mixture, the pork is served with fruit and not the spicy mustard we are used to from the USA.

    BBQ Pork with fruit

    And finally a very popular Chinese dish on the island is called Magic Noodles. It is a layered dish made in a bowl with a fried egg on the bottom, noodles and veg and then turned out onto the plate so the egg is on top. Very popular and very local.

    Magic upside down noodles

    If you come to Mauritius be sure to explore China Town in the capital city of Port Louis. Want to try Boulettes at home? Here is a recipe.

    Indian Influence

    Indo-Mauritians (both Muslim and Hindu) have had a major impact on the island economically, politically, culturally, and certainly in the cuisine. Today’s Indo-Mauritians trace their ancestry to the indentured servants who arrived during the colonial era. Hinduism is the largest religion on the island, and much of the population originates from the Tamil region in South India.

    We found Indian inspired foods everywhere, with some of our favorite flavors of Mauritius coming from street food vendors who prepare delicious roti (flat bread) stuffed with everything from vegetables to octopus, and samosa stuffed with potato and veg. We ate roti several times for breakfast, served hot off the grill at a vendor just down the street.

    Roti three ways; vegetable, chicken and lamb curry

    We learned a lot about this cuisine on our walking tour with Taste Buddies and enjoyed some local favorites like Dholl Puri, a light and delicate tortilla-like bread made from lentils. Sometimes stuffed with curry but often just stuffed with a spicy sambol sauce (sort of like salsa). Dholl Puri in Mauritius is always flat and soft, where in India it can be puffy.

    Dholl Puri – made from lentil flour

    We had a wonderful surprise when our Airbnb host brought us a full homemade meal of Dholl Puri. She made the delicious Dholl Puri herself and served it for us with Chicken Curry with potato and peas and along side some pickled vegetables and sambol. It was by far the best rendition we had on the island.

    Dholl Puri with pickled vegetables and chicken curry

    Our favorite Indian meal was at a restaurant close to our apartment called Zub. The service was excellent and the menu huge. We loved it.

    Our feast at Zub Express Indian Restaurant

    Want to try Dholl Puri at home? Here is a recipe.

    French Influence

    French influence on the cuisine is most evident in the abundant use of delicious baguette and other breads, puddings and desserts as well as bouillon, coq au vin and daube.

    Although Mauritius was a French colony for a much shorter period than when the British held it, the French influence is greater in the culture. The food and the language are French but the British left behind left-hand side driving.

    Entrecote with butter and frites

    We made a point to try French cuisine while on the island. Although many restaurants have menu items that salute the cuisine, we visited one of the highest rated French Restaurants in the town of Black River called Bistrot de la Poste about thirty minutes from where we were staying. The owner, a French man who was raised in Basque Country, chatted with us and welcomed us to his restaurant while we enjoyed a remarkable selection of French food and wine. The menu included canard, foie gras, frites, entrecote, and a lovely selection of French desserts.

    Canard with scalloped potato

    The island also grows its own coffee, and it is often served in the French style – strong and black. We tried three different locally grown coffees, all pretty good. Locals are very proud of their local brew, and you won’t find a Starbucks anywhere on the island. Most cafes we visited also served as a boulangerie and patisserie and included a wide selection of French style desserts and breads.

    Our favorite of the coffees we tried – Dodo Cafe

    The majority of visitors on the island are French, but there are also many guests from other countries around the world from honeymooners to families. This means in addition to the incredible selection of foods mentioned above, you will find pizza, pasta, burgers, sushi and a wide variety of other internationally loved dishes.

    A treat at the Boulangerie down the street from us

    Although we try not to eat out often in our travels (in an effort to stay on budget), we did try all the cultural influenced cuisines at least once during our six week visit. Food is the best way to learn about a place, to meet the locals and experience the culture and Mauritius is a tasty tapestry of delicious history, people and food.

    Just for you – I continue my quest to eat the world. I hope you enjoy!

    Check out our blog about the wildlife preservation efforts on Mauritius.

    Please pin or share our blog! We thank you!

    Middle East Travel

    The Allure of Oman

    The Safest Country in the Middle East

    Location: Oman

    Once again we have stumbled on a country full of surprises. The allure of Oman includes it’s majestic scenery; captivating history; kind and thoughtful people; delicious food; fascinating traditions. Oman is all of this and more…as well as an up and coming tourist destination.

    Nizwa fort
    The people of Oman

    I’m so grateful to have spent ten days here and hope to return again someday.

    History

    Oman has a long and fascinating history dating well before the ancient silk and spice roads. Oman is the oldest independent Arab state. At one time the Omani Empire stretched from present day Oman down the East Coast of Africa and included the island of Zanzibar.

    Prehistoric findings of the region date back as much as 100,000 years. Over the millenia, Oman has been invaded often by Arab Tribes, Portugal and Britain.

    In the 1800’s the country had several sultans ruling over different parts of the territory. In the 1900’s two strongholds remained and tensions caused conflict between the Sultan in Muscat and the Ibadei Imam in Nizwa.

    Oman Seal
    The Sultan of Oman’s Seal

    When oil was discovered in 1954 the two factions once again went to war, and the British Army sided with the Sultan and assisted in air raids of the Ibadei region, including the bombing of the Tanuf Castle (see below).

    From then until 1970 the Omani people were ruled by Sultan Said bin Taimur who decreed the people could have no luxuries…that included shoes. His medieval and archaic way of thinking bred discord as it was a hard life with no schools, roads, or doctors. Disease was rampant.

    “In the 1970 Omani coup d’étatQaboos bin Said al Said ousted his father, Sa’id bin Taimur, who later died in exile in London. Al Said ruled Oman until his death just last month. As Sultan he confronted insurgency in a country plagued by endemic disease, illiteracy, and poverty. One of the new sultan’s first measures was to abolish many of his father’s harsh restrictions, which had caused thousands of Omanis to leave the country, and to offer amnesty to opponents of the previous régime, many of whom returned to Oman. 1970 also brought the abolition of slavery.

    Sultan of Oman Palace
    At the Sultan’s Palace built in 1971

    Sultan Qaboos also established a modern government structure and launched a major development program to upgrade educational and health facilities, build a modern infrastructure, and develop the country’s natural resources. “(Wikipedia)

    Today

    The allure of Oman can certainly be credited to the Sultan. The remarkable changes in this country in a mere 50 years is astonishing. We have found excellent infrastructure of highways and roads (but no subway or well connected transit system), sparkling clean public parks and beaches; everyone is educated and speaks English.

    With the passing of the beloved Sultan in January, his hand-picked successor (he had no heirs) Haitham bin Tariq became Sultan. It’s not expected much will change immediately.

    Wherever we travel, each country has problems. In Myanmar the question of the Royhinga genocide hung heavy over our visit. In China the protests in Hong Kong kept us from our original itinerary. And of course in my own country of the United States, the political upheaval is embarrassing. And Oman too has problems. Cost of oil has dropped and Oman is looking at ways to diversify, including tourism. There are some who feel human rights are neglected and protestors of any kind towards the monarchy are jailed. A clear hierarchy is in place with Omani people serving in government and leadership roles and most service and labor jobs are done by workers who have come from Pakistan, India, Asia and Africa.

    Fishing at the beach
    Fisherman bring in the catch at Qurum Beach

    Oman sits on the Straight of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, only 35 miles from Iran. Oman is focused on territorial stability in a volatile region. As a visitor however you feel very safe and welcome. In fact it feels like a paradise.

    The Omani People

    We met some really wonderful people during our visit. Although most people keep pretty much to themsleves, it’s not uncommon to have people stop and ask if they can help you find something or ask where you are going or where you are from.

    The home of an Omani Family
    Our hostess for our dinner in her beautiful home

    The Muslim men all dress in what is known as the dishdashi and the women are in abaya, usually black but sometimes in other colors. Women wear a hijab. Some women cover their face but most do not. Women actually have a lot of rights in Oman, more than some other Arab countries. They vote, drive and hold professional positions such as doctors, airline pilots and more.

    Many people in Oman also dress in “western” clothing, but you will never see shorts or tank tops on locals.

    As a visitor I was careful to be respectful of the culture and I did not wear shorts at all during my visit. Long pants and shirts that always covered my shoulders and often my elbows as well. The only time I had to cover my head was when I visited the mosque. (see title photo).

    I was a little aghast at some young women we saw from Britain dressed very scantily and I felt it was incredibly disrespectful and as if they were flaunting it. Poor taste indeed.

    The Nizwa Souq
    Spice seller at the Nizwa Souq

    Our favorite experience of our visit to Oman was when we went to the home of a distinguished Omani family and had dinner with them in their home. We made this connection through a local business called Zayr whose mission is to connect Omanis with visitors to broaden the understanding of the culture. I am so glad we did this because we really learned a great deal about the daily life of Omanis. The family we visited was a man who is a Omani diplomat, his lovely stay-at-home wife and their five children. We also met a cousin (who works at the US Embassy) and a brother. Another brother is the Omani Ambassador to China. Many of the family members live in a cohabiting way in a large and beautiful house outside of Muscat. We talked about our respective cultures, and how each are so often misrepresented by media accounts of the actions of a few. We ate sitting on the floor in the Omani style and we truly could not have enjoyed this more. We learned about food and traditions such as eating dates in odd numbers, having coffee and dates at every meal and incense burned after the meal to cleanse your palate. It would be my wish that every American could have this experience to understand more about the peaceful and lovely Muslim people.

    Dining in Omani home
    The lovely family we dined with

    Oman, which is about the same size as California, has a population of 4 million, but only 2.5 million of those are Omani. The rest are expats who come to Oman to work, mostly from India, Pakistan, and other surrounding African and Asian nations.

    Beautiful Oman beaches
    Gulf of Oman

    Muscat

    The capitol city of Muscat is the most beautiful in Oman. The allure of Oman is found in this utopian city. Restriction on high rise buildings (no more than nine stories) as well as architectural restrictions that only allow Arab style structures with stucco in white and desert colors makes the city very symmetric and alluring. Hundreds of workers can be seen tending greenery in parks, medians and along roads keeping the capital city pristine.

    Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Oman
    Inside the Sultan Qaboos Mosque

    Muscat’s main attractions include the beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (the top sight in Muscat), the stunning Royal Muscat Opera House, and the brand new and amazing National Museum of Oman.

    The opera house in Muscat
    The Royal Muscat Opera House

    You can also enjoy the beautiful Sultan’s Palace from the outside. The area known as Muttrah was one of our favorites, it includes a beautiful harbor (cruise ships dock here almost daily), a promenade with parks and viewpoints as well as the historic Muttrah Souq.

    Historic Muttrah
    Muttrah Souq

    Outside of Muttrah we also spent one day hiking in the beautiful barren mountains that surround this region. We had an outstanding day hiking up the craggy rocks and returning through the wadi (Arabic for valley or river bed) where we worked our way around babbling brooks and standing ponds back to sea level.

    Mountain hiking around Muttrah
    Hiking high above Muttrah

    Nizwa and Balha

    We took one full day to tour the forts in this region, about a two hour drive southwest from Muscat. Many visitors stay one or two nights in Nizwa but we chose to do it as a day trip from Muscat.

    We visited the restored Nizwa Fort, built in the 1600’s and restored in a very high quality way between 1985 and 1995. Today it is one of Oman’s top tourist attractions and we enjoyed it very much. Connecting to the fort is the Nizwa Souq. We hit it on a Saturday and many of the vendors were not open (the weekend is Friday Saturday) but we still enjoyed it and bought some spices and tea and dates.

    Beautiful Nizwa fort
    Nizwa Fort

    We also toured the Balha Fort, which was built in the 1100’s. It is currently being restored but you still can walk around it and enjoy it although there is no interpretive information. Hopefully that will be added when the restoration is done.

    One of my favorite things we did was crawl around the Tanuf Castle ruins. Nothing has been done to this site and it sits as it has since it was bombed by the British during the insurgence battles between Muscat and Nizwa in the 1950s. I really enjoyed this place and wish the government would add some interpretive information here.

    Bahla Fort
    Balha Fort

    Many people also go out into the stunning mountains in this region to hike. However we did not rent a 4WD vehicle, and you can’t get very far without one.

    The ruins of Tanuf Oman
    Tanuf Castle ruins

    Sur and Surrounding

    We spent one day driving south and east from Muscat towards the city of Sur.

    Our first stop was to just admire the amazing view of the ocean on this drive. The gorgeous turquoise blue of the Gulf of Oman will take your breath away.

    Our next stop was at the Bimmah Sinkhole – a super cool hole in the ground that was formed by the collapse of the surface layer of limestone. It is considered a lake but it is slightly salty. Visitors can swim in the crystal clear blue waters and enjoy this area for free.

    It is 50m by 70m and 20m deep. There are a few small fish that live in the hole.

    Clear water at Bimmah Sinkhole
    Bimmah Sinkhole

    Wadi Shab is a very popular hike not far from Sur. Both tourists and locals flock here for the beautiful nature and for a chance to swim in the waterfall cave.

    We went to Wadi Shab just after our visit to the Bimmah Sinkhole. However it had rained really hard the day before and we were quit surprised to find mud and silt all over the parking area several inches deep. We were told hiking to the cave was open but expect it to be slippery, muddy and difficult.

    With that information we reassessed our plans and decided to give the area a couple days to dry-out and return. Which we did. And I am so glad we did. A forty-five minute hike up the Wadi was difficult but fun. Wading through deep water and clambering over boulders made for quite an adventure. If you want to go to the cave at the top it requires swimming for about 100-yards. We did not do this, but even without seeing the cave, it was one of my favorite things in Oman. I highly recommend it. Hiking in any of Oman’s beautiful Wadi’s should be a highlight of any visit to Oman. Check out this great list to learn how many Wadi options are waiting to be explored.

    Wadi Shab

    The town of Sur itself wasn’t all that special. We did visit the lighthouse in the old town of Al Ayhar and walked along the ocean boardwalk. We had a wonderful experience having lunch in a tiny little restaurant here. There wasn’t even a menu! The very nice man just brought us lots of lovely food and it all cost only $10.

    Oman's desert Wahiba Sands
    Wahiba Sands

    The Desert

    I wanted to see “the desert” and most of the area along the coast of Oman is craggy mountains. Though these mountains are really beautiful, being in the Middle East means camels and sand dunes to me! So from Sur we drove two hours southwest to the Wahiba Sands desert. Without a 4WD you can’t drive into the dunes. There are plenty of drivers available and willing to take you out into the sand. Overnight camel treks are also available. But since we had done both of those in Morocco, Egypt and Namibia, here we decided to just enjoy the view from afar.

    Come to Oman

    If you are fearful of the Middle East, Oman is the perfect destination. It is welcoming and beautiful and you can learn a lot about the culture of the Middle East and the Muslim people. Don’t fear it – the allure of Oman is as much about the region as it is about the culture…both full of mystery and history just waiting to be discovered.

    Muslim people and Omanis in particular are kind and welcoming and want to share their culture and country.

    I am so glad we came. Shukran Oman. We feel blessed to know you. Tusahibuk alsalama. Peace be with you.

    We love it when you share our blog!

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo

    Reading Wednesday

    This was my first book by author Evaristo, her eighth novel. This highly rated Booker Prize novel kept showing up on “must read” lists and so, I added it to my must read list. Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo was an enjoyable find.

    Unike most novels, the story has no overarching plot, although there is a connecting and wrapping up at the end. Instead the book has 12 chapters, each chapter focusing on an individual woman. Though many of the characters don’t know each other, their lives interconnect over the decades in a unique and well written storyline.

    Throughout the book Evaristo explores cultural and timely issues such as feminism, politics, sexuality, patriarchy, parenting, art, infidelity, relationships, career, abuse and race.

    I enjoyed the tone of this book and it’s unique structure, as well as each of the distinctive characters who span a teenage girl to a 90 year-old woman. Beautifully written.

    Four Stars for Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo. Read last week’s review of The Dutch House.

    Africa Travel

    On the Extinction Trail in Mauritius

    What price preservation?

    Location: Mauritius Island

    Meet the Flintstones

    If you watched the Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the 1960’s called The Flintstones, you might remember one of the things Fred loved to eat…Dodo bird eggs. In the cartoon the egg was as big as Fred, and his wife Wilma always needed help carrying it.

    The Flinstones
    The Flintstones and Dodo egg (c) Hanna-Barbera

    Because the name is kind of funny, you might think a Dodo bird is a figment of the imagination of the creators of The Flintstones. But in fact, Dodo Birds were a real animal found only here on the island of Mauritius where I am currently living for six weeks. Not only real, but prolific and healthy until the arrival of man to this island in the 1600’s. That’s when Dodo’s and other animals of Mauritius became extinct.

    A Remote Island

    The Dodo story is a sad one, and also one we should learn something from. But Dodos are not the only animal that became extinct after man arrived on this remote island in the Indian Ocean. The Giant Domed Tortoises and the Mauritius Saddle Back Tortoises were eaten as protein by sailors until they too became extinct. The Mauritius Giant Skink, the Mauritius Flying Fox and the Mauritius Owl are no longer in existence, as well as another dozen animals and birds. The Pink Pigeon was brought to the brink of extinction but now, thanks to preservation efforts, it is beginning to return.

    Ile aux Aigrettes
    Endangered Mauritius Fody

    A Little History

    From 1502 to 1968 the tiny island of Mauritius bounced around between Arab and European sailors and eventually colonists including the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British. When the Dutch first arrived in 1598 the island was uninhabited by humans, but was home to a variety of animals only found on the island…similar to its much larger neighbor Madagascar.

    Pink Pigeon
    Nearly extinct Pink Pigeon

    Man’s arrival brought hungry sailors and slaves as well as rats, monkeys and pigs. These introductions to the uninhabited island caused Dodo eggs to be eaten from the nest and the large (3 feet tall and 45 pounds), flightless bird (a member of the pigeon family) to easily be captured and consumed.

    Artists Rendition Dodo Bird

    Same is true for the two species of giant tortoise. At the time there were so many of these giant tortoises it is said a man could walk along the beach across the backs of the tortoises for miles (by the way, they CAN feel that, their shells are very sensitive). The tortoise eggs also were eaten by both man and introduced animals, and the protein provided by the giant beasts was much preferred in taste to the Dodo.

    Giant Tortoise
    Seychelle Tortoise breeding on Mauritius

    Quickly Extinct

    By 1681 the last Dodo was killed. Less than a century to eliminate an entire species. Sad.

    Today no species resembling the Dodo is on the island or on the planet. A species of giant tortoise that is similar to the Domed Tortoise is found on the Seychelle Island. This tortoise is now being bred on Mauritius. But farewell Dodo.

    Today’s Preservation Efforts

    Today the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation is working to protect and reintroduce flora and fauna to the island in several protected areas both on and off shore. Their mission is;

    The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) is the only non-governmental organization (NGO) in Mauritius to be exclusively concerned with the conservation and preservation of the nation’s endangered plant and animal species.

    Mauritius blue gecko

    Their work is both restoring entire eco-systems and sharing restoration knowledge both locally and internationally.

    Visitors and locals are able to see first hand the conservation projects being carried out in Mauritius including the offshore islets and Rodrigues. MWF works with local and international partners, with the long-term aim of recreating lost ecosystems by saving some of rarest species from extinction and restoring the native forest. Another important part of the work is to raise awareness about conservation issues through education programs.

    Palm Tree
    Endangered Bottle Palm

    During our visit to Mauritius we enjoyed an amazing guided tour of the off-shore atol of Ile aux Aigrettes, as well as a self-guided tour of Petrin, a birding paradise, within the Black River Gorges National Park.

    You don’t need to stay six weeks on this island to understand how unique it is on our planet as home to a diverse collection of plant and wildlife, as well as a migratory stop-over for many species. A visit to Mauritius is recommended, and while you are here be sure to connect with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and support the incredible work they are doing to protect, preserve and educate. Yabbadabbado!

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